Valentino Rossi dominated today's Rio Grand Prix, the Italian Superstar working his way steadily to the front then holding station for the remainder of the race, while behind him history was made as Makoto Tamada took his, Pramac Honda's and Bridgestone's first MotoGP podium.
Final qualifying had seen Rossi lap almost a second quicker under Max Biaggi's provisional pole time, the Repsol rider ensuring the front slot on the grid for today's race with a sensational time of 1min 49.038secs. Rossi's effort was 0.302 seconds quicker than closest challenger Loris Capirossi, who improved his own provisional time by almost a second on the Ducati.
Sete Gibernau crashed his Honda at the very end of the session but escaped without injury and would start from third, whilst Biaggi was unable to improve on his provisional pole time after crashing in morning practice, leaving him fourth on today's grid.
Troy Bayliss made significant progress in the final session to clock the fifth fastest time in the final seconds, closing the gap to the front row to just 0.166 seconds and provide real hope of another good showing for Ducati in today's main event.
Bayliss edged out the impressive Shinya Nakano, who makes the second row in sixth place for the second successive race, whilst Nicky Hayden quickly got to grips with the circuit on his first visit to Rio, qualifying seventh fastest ahead of Honda colleague Tohru Ukawa, who completes the second row.
Local favourite Alex Barros was unable to defend his provisional second row spot as the pace intensified yesterday and will start from the third row in eleventh. Colin Edwards did make a notable improvement on the Aprilia, moving up from twentieth place to twelfth and knocking Garry McCoy back to the fourth row in thirteenth - the Australian's best qualifying performance on the Kawasaki.
As well as Gibernau, John Hopkins and Olivier Jacque (twice) both crashed – Jacque suffered a nasty knock to his left foot, while Hopkins was left with multiple 'impact' injuries which would rule him out of today's race. Also in trouble, again, was WCM's Chris Burns – the unlucky Brit suffering a late gearbox problem that would put him several laps down.
Nevertheless, having seen two action packed support races, expectation was high for an equally thrilling main event, and when the red lights went out and the 22 rider field charged into the right hand turn one it was Capirossi who took the advantage – briefly, before Gibernau made a brave mood inside at turn two to head Loris, Rossi, Biaggi, Haydon, Bayliss (who nearly highsided at the start), Nakano, Tamada and Ukawa.
Rossi worked his way inside the Ducati rider towards the end of lap one, by which time Sete had stolen a 0.7secs jump on the chasing field, while the second Repsol Honda of Hayden was also threatening: the American crawling all over Biaggi for fourth.